Encounters with the Lord

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-6

Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians when he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. Jesus showed up in such a powerful way that it knocked Saul to the ground and blinded him. This was the beginning of the Pharisee Saul becoming the apostle Paul.

Encounters with the Lord change us. But not all encounters are like the one Saul had. Throughout the Bible we see people having encounters with the Lord in different ways. And in the New Testament church, because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those encounters only increased in variety.

What follows is a list of a variety of different encounters that are available to us. This list is not exhaustive but instead representative of the variety of ways Jesus encounters us through the Spirit. There are as many kinds of encounters as there are characteristics of Christ.

1. Mercy Encounter: most Christians have had this kind of encounter with the Lord. This is when the Lord reveals our sin and our unworthy state as we stand vulnerable before the Lord and He pours out his forgiveness upon us. As His grace and mercy envelop us, we feel free from the guilt and shame of our sin. We feel washed clean and made right with the Lord. Tears often accompany this encounter.

2. Truth Encounter: this is when we have been shackled by a lie (or lies) and we didn’t even know it. The Lord reveals a powerful truth to us through scripture, through prayer, through a sermon, or through a friend. That truth rocks us to the core and breaks the chains of the lie we had been believing. Jesus is the Truth as He comes with a fresh perspective and sets us free. An “ah ha” feeling, a feeling of new revelation and new perspective, often accompanies this kind of encounter.

3. Love Encounter: this is when the Love of the Father gets poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We may have felt unaccepted or unloved until this moment. When God’s love pours out on us we feel totally accepted and cherished as a child of God. Performance mentality is broken off of us. We finally accept that we don’t have to earn God’s love. We just bask in it. More than tears, weeping often accompanies this kind of encounter. Others have felt what they can only describe as liquid love pouring onto them.

4. Power Encounter: this is when the power of God shoots through someone’s body like electricity. These encounters most often happen during prayers of impartation, prayers for healing, and prayers for deliverance. The power of God surges through someone physically and they have physical reactions to it. They often tremble, shake, fall to the ground, have muscle contractions, and sometimes experience pain. It makes sense that our frail human bodies would have a hard time handling the power of our omnipotent God. Sometimes, especially if this kind of encounter is new to someone, it is a little frightening because a person can lose control of their bodies for a moment.

5. Peace Encounter: this is when the peace of Christ comes and blankets us. We suddenly go from a mind filled with anxiety, fear, worry, and grief to a complete calm. All the anxiety, fear, and worry leave. We feel totally at peace. Our problems that seemed so huge before melt away. The problem doesn’t change but we see it differently now. We are confident in God’s ability to work in any situation. We are not worrying about the future nor trapped in the past. When the peace of Christ blankets us, we are completely present in the moment. A sense of total calm mixed with unconditional hope often accompanies this kind of encounter.

6. Joy Encounter: this is when the explainable joy of the Lord fills our hearts. This is not joy based on people around us or our circumstances. This is an outpouring of joy from the heart of God. Sometimes there is a feeling that a person is so filled with the Spirit that they feel intoxicated or high. The heaviness of life, despair, depression, and hopelessness immediately evaporate as they are overwhelmed by the joy of the Lord. This joy encounter can be momentary (just a few hours) or it can last days. People often experience uncontrollable laughter even when nothing around them is funny.

7. Fire Encounter: this is when the fire of God comes upon a person. This is a kind of power encounter. The person feels heat all over their body or in one particular part of their body. It gets so hot that the person often sweats profusely though no one around them is warm. This can be localized if someone is praying for healing for a particular part of the body, or it can be felt all over if the Presence of God is all over a person.

8. Vision/Dream Encounter: this is a revelatory encounter where God gives a person an open vision. An internal vision is when God gives us a picture or a scene in our mind’s eye. That is a much more common experience than an open vision. An open vision is when a person is stopped in their tracks by seeing a spiritual vision externally with their physical eyes. We see this kind of encounter many times in the New Testament. Those with prophetic gifts will have more of these kinds of encounters. This kind of encounter can also happen while we are sleeping if Jesus comes to speak to us in our dreams.

9. Angelic Encounter: this is when a person sees with their physical eyes an angel near them. Often the angel has been sent to do something or say something to them. The angel is never worshipped as they are simply servants in the Kingdom of God. But the experience of seeing an angel can shake a person and cause a level of holy fear. The angel often has just been in God’s Presence and, like an aroma or a kind of radiation, the residue of God’s Presence can be felt on them.

10. Fear of the Lord Encounter: this is when a person encounters God’s Presence and God reveals to them just how close He was to them. When that revelation hits, the awesome fear of the Lord falls upon them. The awareness of just how awesome, powerful, holy, and glorious the Lord is hits a person all at once and it’s terrifying. Holy fear envelops them. Shaking, weeping, and repentance often accompanies this kind of encounter.

I know all of these encounters are real and available to us as followers of Jesus because I’ve had most of them. Though I’ve never had an open vision, I have had inner visions and I’ve had good friends who’ve experienced open visions. Though I’ve never had an angelic encounter, I have good friends and loved ones who have. All the rest of these I’ve experienced firsthand. And this is only a list of 10. There are so many attributes of God and encounters with Him that await those who pursue Him.

We don’t pursue the encounter, we pursue Jesus. We go after Him with everything we are and He meets us where we are with a unique encounter just for us. Encountering Jesus through the Spirit is life-changing. Every time we have an experience with Him we are changed by it. We get a taste of His nature and His character and we want more. And as we get to know Him, we want to be just like Him.

Fear of the Lord

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians… And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Exodus 14:30-31

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him…

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 33:8, 16-18

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

I believe the Lord is inviting the church back to the fear of the Lord. We must know how loved and cherished we are by our Father in heaven. We must know that we are a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must understand our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. And knowing all of this will inevitably lead to the fear of the Lord, an encounter with His holiness.

What is the fear of the Lord?

1. It is absolute surrender. It’s saying “Yes” to God before we even fully understand His command.

2. It is freedom from the fear of man. It’s no longer being bound by people pleasing. It’s seeking God’s approval above all others.

3. It is humility. It’s owning the fact that He is God and we are not. It’s living out the reality that we are not equal with God. (Philippians 2:5-8) He gets to call the shots. We are following Jesus not the other way around.

4. It is waiting on the Lord. It’s knowing that going forward without Him is pointless.

5. It is going boldly when we are sent by the Lord. It’s taking risks and stepping out in faith.

6. It is making hosting God’s Presence the primary concern, making sure He feels welcome before anyone else feels welcome.

There are a few reasons I feel like the Lord wants to return the fear of the Lord to the church. I’ve heard more than one major church leader talk about feeling this pull toward the fear of the Lord. I’ve also had talks with prophetic friends who feel the same way.

But the main reason I think Jesus wants to reintroduce the fear of the Lord to the church is because of an encounter I had at the end of 2019. I experienced just a taste of God’s raw holiness and was undone by the fear of the Lord. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I’ll never forget it. I believe the Lord was giving me a taste of what is to come. I wrote about that experience here.

In the future, I believe entire worship services will be taken over by the fear of the Lord. People will bow in repentance and kneel weeping before the Lord as they encounter His awesome holiness. Lukewarm Christianity will be broken in half. Syncretistic agreement with our current culture will be washed away in the hearts of believers. Being obedient will take precedence over being liked. The fear of the Lord will shake us and cause a full surrender.

Afraid Yet Filled

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

Matthew 28:5-8

Afraid yet filled with joy. The women just had two encounters. They first encountered an empty tomb. This caused confusion and fear. Why would Jesus’s enemies desecrate His body by stealing it from the tomb? And before they could process it all, they had a second encounter, this time with an angel.

Their fear was not the sinful kind of fear that is steeped in distrust of God and worry about the future. The fear they were experiencing in this moment was the fear of the Lord. It was a holy fear of reverence and awe having just been in the presence of an angel who was dripping with the glory of the Lord. God was doing something glorious and yet so far outside of their understanding that it brought both fear and joy.

Afraid yet filled with joy.

This sums up the whole of a life walking with Jesus as He does the unexpected, the miraculous, the unthinkable. The disciples regularly experienced this mixture. When Jesus walked on water, when Jesus healed people who hadn’t been able to walk for decades, when Jesus cast out demons that no one else could, when Jesus touched people He shouldn’t have (like bleeding women and leprous men), the disciples lived in wondrous awe. They felt the fear of the Lord and the joy of the Lord all at the same time.

As followers of Jesus, we follow Him to our own cross and to our own tomb. We put to death the selfish, sinful things that hold us back from fullness of life with Christ. And we also follow Him out of that tomb, walking into new life as a new creation, a new kind of humanity that the world has never seen before.

When we believe in the impossible because of resurrection power coursing through our veins, and when we witness the impossible become possible right in front of us, we will regularly feel as the women did that day–afraid yet filled with joy. The holy fear of the Lord–the reverent awe of His holiness and power–mixes with the incredible, abundant joy of seeing heaven come to earth, and we are never the same!

He is risen!

Holy Fear

“Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? 

1 Samuel 6:20

This was the response of some of the people of Israel after encountering the awesome presence of God.

The Philistines had captured the ark of the Lord, and it had been in Philistine territory for seven months. In that time the presence of the Lord, which stayed in proximity of the ark, had toppled pagan gods and created quite a stir among the Philistine people. Disease had broken out in judgment against the Philistines who were attempting to subdue the God of Israel. It wasn’t working.

So the Philistines sent the ark back to Israel, and it ends up in the area of Beth Shemesh. The people of Beth Shemesh were so excited about this that they offered sacrifices to the Lord and had a huge celebration. Yet, even then, some Israelites were too flippant with the presence of the Lord. Some of them dropped dead “because they looked into the ark of the Lord“(1 Samuel 6:19).

Before we start picturing the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, let’s look again at what the people of Beth Shemesh said. What caused the fear of the Lord to fall on the people was not God’s omnipotence or judgment. What caused an absolute fear to fall on the people was God’s holiness.

Throughout scripture we learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; it’s a fountain of life and a blessing to all who fear God. The fear of the Lord in this context is not about being afraid of God but instead about honoring God with our lives. It’s about being in awe of God with a holy reverence. This kind of “fear of the Lord” is something we can mature and grow in as we mature in Christ.

Yet, there is another kind of “fear of the Lord” that can happen when we encounter the raw presence of God. Throughout scripture those who encounter the presence of God (or an angel who is saturated in the presence of God) usually end up dropping to the ground in fear. This happens not because God is terrifying but because He is completely holy.

I have tried to live with the first kind of fear of the Lord (respect, honor, reverence) for most of my life. Yet, I encountered the second kind of fear of the Lord for the first time a few months ago. I had an encounter with God where the power of God was running through my body like 220 volts of electricity. This went on for many minutes, to the point where all the muscles in my body involuntarily contracted (picture someone getting tased and you’re getting close to what the experience was like). It was beautiful and painful!

After the power of God subsided, and I was able to get off the ground, I began to walk around to try to recover from what just happened. While I was walking, suddenly and without warning, the overwhelming sense of how close the raw presence of God came to me hit me like a ton of bricks. This was not something I was aware of naturally. It was something the Holy Spirit suddenly revealed to me in that moment.

As soon as it dawned on me how close I was to the raw presence of God, the holy fear of the Lord hit me. I’ve never felt anything like it. All I could do was sit down and weep. The holy fear that hit me was tangible. I couldn’t pray anything intelligible. The only thing coming out of my mouth was, “Oh God! Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” That’s all I could pray for about 10 minutes. I was enveloped in a holy fear.

The holiness of God is absolutely terrifying. And I’m sure I only tasted a sliver of it. If you think standing before this holy God during judgment is going to be all love and rainbows, think again. Yes, God is love. His love is overwhelming and unconditional. God is also holy. And His holiness will drop us to our knees in absolute fear. For all the universalists out there who think God is like Santa Claus, think again. Those who face the holiness of God naked–not clothed in the righteousness of Christ–will not find the proximity of the Lord something to be desired. Even those of us clothed in Christ will be overwhelmed.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to surrender your life to Jesus. You’re not promised tomorrow! You don’t know when you will be standing before this holy God, but you will want to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ (rather than your own) when you do.

Peace!

Gideon replied, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, give me a sign that it is really you talking to me. 

Gideon went inside, prepared a young goat, and from an ephah of flour he made bread without yeast.

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!”

But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace.

Judges 6:17, 19-24

Gideon had an encounter with the angel of the Lord but wanted evidence that it was really him. So Gideon made an offering, and, with one touch of the tip of the angel’s staff, the offering was consumed by fire. We’re not sure here if Gideon was dealing with an angel or some manifestation of God Himself. Maybe this was the pre-incarnate Son of God.

Gideon seemed to come to the realization that he was in God’s Presence. This realization absolutely terrified him. Over and over again in scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, we see that there is an aspect of being in God’s raw Presence that is completely terrifying. There is a holy fear that comes upon people. This isn’t because God is scary but because He is pure power in His majesty. There is something about his overwhelming holiness that makes human beings instantly aware of our sinfulness and lowliness. In these moments, the “fear of the Lord” moves from just being a concept about honoring God into a tangible reality that they can feel in their bones.

Seeing Gideon in a state of complete terror, the angel of the Lord (likely the Lord Himself) said, “Peace!” This sounds really familiar.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you!

John 20:19-21

When God says the word “peace,” it changes atmospheres, quiets storms, and has tangible effects on people. When God speaks “peace” He’s not just saying, “It’s okay.” When God says “peace” He is releasing the atmosphere of the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of the world.

Gideon feels the effect of peace being spoken over his life so much that he actually sets up an altar in that place and calls it, “The Lord is Peace.” In other words, when God speaks peace into our lives He is imparting an aspect of His very nature to us. Isaiah 9:6 prophesies that one of Jesus’s titles would be “Prince of Peace.”

Is there chaos in your life? In your heart? In your mind? Are you bound by fear and anxiety? If so, then peace is what you need, and God is the source of the kind of peace you need. Hear him speaking “Peace” to you today!

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:5-7